Herbed Olive Oil

A few years ago one of the hottest food gifts was extra-virgin olive oil, bottled attractively and filled with sprigs of herbs. Extra-virgin olive oil, of which there are very many brands, is the first oil that comes from the olives when pressed without added heat. It comes in varying shades of pale green and has a highly distinctive, somewhat peppery taste. Stems of fresh thyme, rosemary, bay, and oregano are jammed into the bottle, along with garlic, a few black and green peppercorns, and dried red peppers. This becomes impressive to look at and– after a week or so of marination–delicious on a salad or even on bread as a substitute for butter. (Indeed, olive oil fanatics wind up pouring it on almost everything.)

Herbed olive oil.

The brand of olive oil I like for this is Saica, not only because of its wonderful flavor and aroma but also because it’s a particularly beautiful shade of green. It’s available at Dorignac’s, Nor-Joe Imports, and a few other places. Buy empty cork-stoppered bottles at a place like Pier One and gallon cans of the oil to fill them with.

By the way, I don’t recommend you use fresh garlic for this. There is the off-chance that botulism can result, and that tastes really bad.

  • 12 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. dried minced garlic (in the spice rack)
  • 4 dried whole red chili peppers (in spice rack)

1. Wash all the herbs well and shake the water off them. Place them on a towel to dry completely.

2. Push the herbs stem side down into the bottle, and add all the other seasonings. Fill the bottle with olive oil so that all the herbs are covered. (Some things, notably the chili peppers, will rise to the top at first, but they’ll sink eventually.) Make sure that all the herbs are completely covered with oil.

3. Cork the bottle tightly and keep in a cool, dark place. (You can refrigerate it, and although that will turn the oil cloudy it will clear again as it warms up to room temperature.) As you use the oil, top off the bottle with more extra-virgin olive oil. If the herbs stick out, they may get moldy. The herbs will continue to flavor the oil for about a year. It takes about two weeks for the first batch to reach full flavor.

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  1. C.J. Voelkel on December 10, 2015

    Tom, I tried doing this 20 or 18 years ago using fresh herbs. I found that after standing, corked, for a few weeks some of the herbs tended to get moldy. In order to get around this problem, I placed the herbs, some fresh garlic, spices and oil in pint canning jars and processing the jars at 15 PSIG for a few minutes in a pressure cooker. After the pressure was allowed to go down to atmospheric, I allowed the now sealed jars to stand at room temperature for a couple of weeks. At that point, the solids can be fished out into a display bottle (1/10th wine bottles are good) and the oil decanted off of any aqueous liquid and used to fill the display bottle if it is to be used for a gift, or in my case, just used for cooking or serving without the solids.

    All you need to do to avoid the mold is always to keep the herbs completely submerged in oil.

    Tastefully yours,
    Tom Fitzmorris

    C.J.V. – don’t like moldy herbs in my oil, no

  2. Gerry on January 6, 2017

    Beginner. What is best olive oil for cooking and mixing on bread and salad

    You use “100% Pure” olive oil for cooking in a hot pan. It’s less expensive, and has all the flavor you need for pannee-ing.

    You use “extra-virgin olive oil if you are using it as a complement to a sauce–a salad dressing, a little bit on top of a cold appetizer, and anywhere you want the distinctive flavor but not to be cooked at a high temp.

    My favorite brand of extra-virgin is SAICA olive oil, also known as “Castelvitrano” oil, from Sicily.
    Tastefully yours,
    Tom Fitzmorris